Archives: Personal History

Name: Rose D.
Date of Interview: June 28, 2006
Sobriety Date(s): August 9, 1964 & June 1, 1986
Current Home Group & Location: Moorestown Barber Group, Moorestown, NJ
Locations lived in during sobriety: Glen Head, NY, Williston, NY & Mt. Laurel, NJ
(New York areas on Long Island)

How and when did you get started in A.A.? Where did you sober up and go to your first meeting?
I called NY Intergroup, someone called me that night, and three people picked me up for a meeting the next night. I did not drive at the time, so at least 2 times/week someone picked me up. For the 1st month (July 1964) I still drank, then the realization came, the aim was to not drink at all, instead of managing not to get drunk. Long Island had a good base of groups. I went to Westbury, Albertson, and Mineola in my first year.
How did you first learn about A.A.?
A Friend’s mother went to AA in Brooklyn, NY – never gained sobriety before death. – The husband of a dear friend was a member in Massillon, OH since 1948. In the 1960’s, there were TV ads for AA daily in the early hours; say from 12AM to 3AM.
Did you have a sponsor when you first came in? What type of sponsorship did you have?
In the first month or two “temporary” sponsors – then I met someone in Albertson Group about Sept. 1964. Betty had celebrated 3 years in AA when she became my sponsor, and maintains her sobriety.
How many groups or meetings were in existence? Can you recall the formats used at some of these early meetings? How were they run?
Each group had 2 meetings per week; one was open, for family or friends and had three speakers, usually coming from other groups. The other meeting was closed for alcoholics only; usually one speaker qualified, and then open discussion. Often, if a group was large, a beginners group was held one hour earlier lead by someone with at least one year in AA.
When was A.A. started in your town or area? How often were meetings held? Who were some of the people playing important roles in the formation of new groups?
My hometown was Massillon, OH. I don’t know the date, but the group was one of the early groups after Akron began. Moorestown Barber Group in NJ is over 50 years old. Sometimes, new groups were established because of resentments. Just as often a group was too large and they were able to split. Sometimes, someone was able to find a church to start a meeting in their locality. – One of my sisters started AA in 1970 and was sober until her death in 2004 in Massillon, OH.
What else do you know about the growth of A.A. during that period of time?
In the late 1960’s, early 1970’s, the two counties on Long Island ( Nassau & Suffolk) were able to set up Intergroups in order to make sure anyone calling was not skipped & alleviated Manhattan’s Intergroup’s work. Almost all AA members started by calling AA; some referred by priests or ministers, some by doctors, some by family or friends.
What contributions did you, yourself, make to the growth of the Fellowship? (Don’t be unnecessarily modest!)
I sponsored people, represented my group on speaking to other groups, made coffee, held offices in the groups. Helped to start two groups on Long Island.
What controversies over issues addressed in the Traditions can you recall people wrestling with? (How were meeting spaces acquired? Was rent or other funding obtained by gambling sessions? Bingo games? How did the membership resolve these affairs?)
In Ohio or Long Island, I never heard of all day coffee houses – clubs – or any of the above. Occasionally a group would meet in someone’s home; the norm was meetings in churches. For about 2 years an “Old Timers” group met in Roslyn, NY. Most AA members criticized the purpose of the group, and it faded away.
What individuals were especially prominent in your sobriety?
In 1964, I was afraid I would hurt my two young children, that made me call Intergroup. When I drank again in early 1979, it took me seven years to get sober again. (I never stopped going to meetings.) Again, I did not want to lose my children. My two sponsors were paramount in my sobriety; one from 1964 and one from 1979 who is still living – who tried to help me get sober again – and a person I still respect.
How were new members contacted? What kinds of Twelfth Step work were going on? Are there any Twelfth Step anecdotes that stick out in your mind that you’d care to share?
Most of the members came to AA thru 12-Step work. Rule #1, never go on a call alone, always take at least one other person along, even if going to take a person to the hospital. In Glen Head, NY a neighbor became amorous with a young man at least 20 years younger than her on a 12-Step call. Next time she called, three women went.
Today, A.A. is well known to, and supported by police officers, judges and corrections officials. What kind of relationship did A.A. in your area have with local authorities? How has that changed since you sobered up?
In 1985 I went to Veritas Villa Rehab after detox. There were many policemen from New York City attending. Also, in the 1960’s & 70’s some businesses had alcoholic counselors that used rehabs. I merely remember people were jailed and mental hospitals were used for detox. Local hospitals gradually established in-house treatment.
Treatment facilities nowadays frequently host A.A. and other Twelve Steps meetings. Did any of them use a Twelve Step format or incorporate meetings into their structure?
Veritas Villa (in upstate NY) definitely AA based. Also, the hospital where I detoxed for one week had AA speakers and was based on AA practices. The counselors arranged for people to go to a rehab, usually for about one month.
Did you seek the cooperation of other local community or professional agencies?
On Long Island, a speakers group would speak at high schools. Our group established AA listings in local newspapers for AA & Al-Anon. Gained permission to leave literature in local hospitals, doctor’s offices and even some churches.
Today, radio and television public service announcements for A.A., as well as Internet Web sites, are becoming commonplace. When you first got sober, how did A.A.s interact with the media? Have you had any profound experiences sharing your relationship with alcohol with the public? What cautions might you have for young A.A.s today regarding media exposure?
If a person was on a TV spot (or radio) usually their face was not visible and they used first names only. On Long Island, there were some celebrities, if they participated; they acted in an anonymous manner. No – I never did any media work on my own. There was one problem we had for a time. For various reasons a member would bring an outsider to a closed meeting. This caused problems. Mainly because we had many open meetings available.
During the early years of your recovery, how did the community receive Alcoholics Anonymous?
Anonymity was important. The community members or organizations who supported AA were strong. But, women were looked down upon (double standard.) But, I think most people were wary of AA & its members.
Do you think your group(s) has had an influence in your community? If so, how?
Very definitely – Groups have a positive effect on their areas, simply because AA members become healthy & try to have a good family life. Many members anonymously do work in their businesses & churches & they become productive members of society.
What do you remember of early conferences, assemblies, and conventions? Can you recall opening intergroup or central offices?
I did some volunteer work on my local Nassau County, NY Intergroup, especially for its beginning years. Also, for a few years, a few of us started AA retreats at a local retreat house. Now the retreat house has about 4 retreats a year – notably a retreat around New Year’s Eve.
Have you had any contact with G.S.O.? Please elaborate.
No, I have not been active in GSO. The Grapevine and AA literature are very valuable to me. I have never cared for large conferences or conventions.
Today, Conference-approved literature is available to help A.A. members deal with a wide variety of challenging questions. In the early days of the Fellowship all we had was the book Alcoholics Anonymous, common sense and your compassion. How did early A.A.s treat newcomers? How did your group(s) treat constant slippers? Thirteenth steppers? How were people, wishing to talk about multiple addictions during your meetings addressed? How about nonalcoholic drug addicts walking in off the street for their first meeting?
Newcomers were always welcome. There were always a couple people who helped newcomers sometimes slacking off when the person picked a sponsor/sponsors. Slippers were always welcome. Only if they disrupted a meeting were they taken out. Sponsors always tried to protect newcomers from 13th steppers. For many years some AA members thought they could dictate the kind of medicine people were taking – that could be dangerous. There could be problems about people not sticking to alcohol. We could always refer people to NA.
In what ways has A.A. changed over the years?
Gradually, specialized groups were formed: for lawyers, doctors, etc. Men only groups began to be formed, then women’s groups. Some people maintained these groups were not real AA. I disagree. In addition to regular group attendance, I think a woman’s group really helped. Meetings held in private homes are not my favorite type of meeting. When people contributed to discussion they only said their name – they didn’t add “I’m an alcoholic” until the 70’s. The local hospitals having alcohol treatment, the good rehabs that came to life are great! Long Island had Freeport Hospital and one rehab for men up to the 1960’s 0 otherwise people went to one of three mental hospitals. A major milestone came when the AMA pronounced alcoholism a disease, then changes in treatment developed. Anonymity has suffered because celebrities have used AA to help their careers. General public anonymity is hard to practice, and helps support spiritual anonymity. This is a major problem in recent times.